Revolutionary. Impossible. Mind-boggling. Dizzying. Necessary. Imminent. Quantum technology breakthroughs have been described in countless ways. And, while much uncertainty surrounds this fascinating sector, it’s becoming increasingly clear that this industry is not some flash-in-the-pan trend that we’ll soon be hearing the last of. Quantum technology likely represents one of the next great frontiers in paradigm-shifting tech, alongside nuclear power, the steam engine, and the microchip.
But this is a confusing industry, filled with incomprehensible jargon and head-spinning science. How is an everyday EDO professional supposed to come to grips with this area? In the article that follows, we’ll discuss a few of the ways that quantum startups are categorized and discussed. We’ll also take a birds-eye-level peek at some of the numbers and statistics that define this rapidly growing industry.
Quantum Tech Breakdown
Quantum technology startups can be broken down in different ways. We’ll explore a few different strategies, two used in the Quantum Technologies 2021 Market and Technology Report by French company Yole Developpement and two used in the Quantum Computing Market Report by Research Dive.
By Technology Type
The Yole Developpement Report identifies three main categories of quantum technology: computing, sensing and timing, and cryptography. Cryptography and computing kinda speak for themselves but sensing and timing might need some explanation. This category refers to tech that uses quantum techniques to improve on classical techniques in optics, microscopy, and other forms of imaging, sensing, and timekeeping. While a detailed explanation of the science behind these new methods is outside the scope of this article, suffice to say that researchers are exploiting the quantum states of atoms and photons to surpass the sensitivity of even the most advanced classical technologies.
The Yole Report posits that, although the sensing and timing sector is currently the largest in terms of outside funding (at $218 million worldwide in 2020), the quantum computing field will grow fastest and nearly surpass the (also quickly) growing field of encryption and cryptography.
The Research Dive Report breaks down proposed growth of quantum tech by application, instead of technology type.
What’s of note in their approach is the predicted rapid growth of the quantum machine learning (QML) market. Their optimism with respect to QML is understandable. Traditional machine learning has expanded from a barely-heard-of curiosity just a decade ago to one of the dominant techs driving the software industry today.
Quantum machine learning involves not just new hardware, but entirely new algorithms and approaches involving such difficult-to-comprehend strategies as linear algebra simulation with quantum amplitudes, quantum-enhanced reinforcement learning, and hidden quantum Markov models, it’s widely understood that – while extremely promising – much work remains to be done to turn QML into a tool as useful as traditional ML.
Different sectors hope to profit from quantum technology in different ways. But it’s unlikely that any industry will remain untouched by the transformative power of quantum tech. It’s predicted that one industry in particular, however, will draw heavily on the massive increases in computing power permitted by quantum advances to drive profits in the near future: finance.
The financial applications of quantum computing could range from stock forecasting to asset and bond return calculations, variance and covariance analysis, and even more hands-on activities, like supply chain management.
By Qubits Tech
This one might need a bit of ‘splaining.
Most of us are familiar with bits, right? They’re the little switches that power conventional chips in everything from smart fridges to traditional supercomputers. They can take on one of two states: 1 or 0.
Well, qubits are quantum bits. Due to the bizarre properties of quantum physics, qubits can take on multiple states, sometimes at the same time. The following figure should make things clear as mud:
See? Simple, right? We’re kidding, of course. The takeaway, though, is that each qubit is capable of representing much more than just “on” or “off” which exponentially increases the power of the processing technologies that incorporate them.
There are different ways to operationalize the theory and one way to conceptualize the quantum startup market is to break it down into five categories: photonic, superconducting, annealing, trapped-ion, and an “other” category.
You’ll notice that, together, trapped-ion technology and photonic quantum computing take the lion’s share of available capital. This is largely due to the influence of two companies: PsiQuantum and IonQ.
Quantum Companies to Watch
The quantum sector is filled with companies that are poised for massive growth. And, while it’s impossible to know which will take off and which will ultimately fizzle, the companies listed below have all convinced more than their share of investors and stakeholders that they’re on the right track.
IonQ: Quantum Industry Darling
As the first pure-play quantum technology company to go public on the New York Stock Exchange, IonQ has been flush with cash (over $600 million of it, to be exact) since its IPO on October 1, 2021. The firm exploits proprietary “trapped-ion” quantum computing, which allows for more stability and reliability than on-silicon quantum technology, to create quantum supercomputers which it licenses to companies that include Google, Amazon, and Microsoft cloud departments.
Since its Series A in 2017, the company has also raised over $432 million in private funding rounds, including a post-equity funding round in October of 2021.
PsiQuantum: Leaders in Photonic Tech
PsiQuantum hopes to build the world’s first commercially viable quantum computer with photonic technology. They’ve raised over $660 million dollars in six discrete funding rounds (their latest was a Series D on July 27, 2021), which values the company at over $3 billion.
This firm takes the long view, eschewing small, incremental advances that create barely usable quantum tech in the near term in favor of big and bold bets on truly transformative techniques and technologies with world-changing potential.
What Quantum Technology Firms Offer Communities Today
Quantum startups offer economic development organizations the holy grail of economic activity: high-growth companies that employ highly skilled and well-paid professionals in rewarding and engaging work. These firms enrich the communities where they operate and bring prestige to the towns and cities where they take root.
Economic development organizations would be wise to avoid shying away from this sometimes “intimating” industry. You don’t need a double PhD in physics and computer science to understand the benefits that these organizations can bring! Here’s are a few more Quantum technologies companies to watch!